Testing started just yesterday but Mercedes already made plenty of headlines. The German-based team earned the spotlight through a never-before-seen steering wheel device, which had fellow F1 teams and FIA officers questioning its compliance with the technical regulations.
As it later emerged, its name is DAS, which stands for Dual Axis Steering.
Video footage from Barcelona shows how Hamilton would push away the steering wheel at the corners and pull it towards himself on the straights. It turned out to be a mechanical trick with the aim of changing the alignment of the front wheels, in order to favour a more even tyre heating by striking a compromise between adjusting car balance and looking after the tyres.
Auto Motor und Sport spoke to Racing Point’s technical director Andy Green, who dug deeper into the secrets of this mysterious system.
“As far as we can see on the video, this device is part of the steering. The regulations only state that the driver may change the position of the front wheels with the steering. How and where is not exactly specified”
Hence, the engineering department of the Silver Arrows seems to have outdone the rules once again, having taken full advantage of yet another grey area. Further inspections and analyses conducted by the FIA have stated the legality of such device, which might be banned from 2021 onwards.
Green revealed that it requires a 6-month period of design and projecting. Moreover, it might not be too smart of a move from rival engineers to try and copy it, as it would affect the entire chassis and a radical change woud become inevitable.
While Ferrari and Red Bull evaluate this thorny dilemma, Mercedes might have found the light at the end of the tunnel by coming up with an original trick to counter its tyre issues and take it to the next level.
“It will be of particular benefit on circuits with long straights” stated pundit Mark Huges on F1.com as he elaborated on the characteristics of Mercedes’ trailblazing and game-changing solution.
James Allison regarded the DAS as 'a novel idea' while speaking to the media on Thursday, adding that "it introduces an extra dimension to the steering, to the driver, that we hope will be useful during the year".
As for its legality, the Briton addressed the issue by revealing that it isn't news to the FIA. "It's something that we have been talking to them about for some time. The rules are pretty clear about what is permitted on steering system, and we're pretty confident that it matches all of these requirements".